ESCO patrol supervisor Jeremy Osteen’s career in law enforcement has always been tied to the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office. The Daily Light continues its weekly “Behind the Badge” series, to be published each Sunday, in an effort to get to know the officers that serve and protect us on a daily basis.
Have you always been in law enforcement?
I started working for the Ellis County Sheriff’s department in March of 1990, and have been with them ever since. Now days, that’s a really long time to be at one agency in law enforcement. There have been some excellent men and women in Ellis County who have spent their entire career in law enforcement, but that time has always been spread between three or four different agencies.
It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do. Even as far back as I can remember. My dad was a fire chief in Hutchins with a volunteer fire department, and just hanging out with him at the fire department, and the police department was right next door, it was just something I grew up around.
My dad never was a cop until I got into law enforcement. When I started in 1990, he would come out and ride with me, just as a civilian rider, and it started to grow on him. Ray Stewart, who was sheriff at the time told him he should consider going to the academy and becoming a reserve deputy. So he did, and we both worked as sheriff’s deputies under Ray Stewart. When my son graduated from high school, he went to work as a detention officer for about five years. So there were a few years where we had three generations working for the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department at the same time. My dad retired in 2012, and my son ended up going to the fire academy, but that’s something I’m really proud of.
What did you do when you first started work for the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office?
When I started work in March of 1990, I was a detention officer at the old three-story brick jail. It’s no longer standing, but that was an experience in itself. Compared with the facility today, it was just a world of difference. Back then, you only had three detention officers, each one assigned to a floor. There was no air conditioning in the summer. Just fans. No elevators, so you had to climb three flights of stairs if you needed to take something to the top floor. Today, they have somewhere around 15, maybe 18 staffed at the new jail.
While I was working as a detention officer, I went to the police academy at Cedar Valley. I can remember we would pull 12 hour shifts, then go to school at night. That made for some long days. I got my peace officer’s license in 1992, and worked in patrol until 1998. I worked in CID from 1998 to 2003 doing investigation work, and at the time I was the only crime scene investigator. I had some additional training to do that work.
In 2003 I went back to the patrol division as a patrol supervisor.
Thinking back on your years as a CID investigator, what are some of the things that you’ve seen change in the field?
Back when I was doing crime scene investigation, using DNA as evidence was just getting started. It was nothing to take anywhere from 60 to 120 days or longer to get results back from some of the independent labs. But technology in crime scene investigation has just exploded. Fingerprint and blood analysis techniques we used 20 years ago are just about obsolete now. Technology has just enabled us to work faster and more efficiently.
We will go back and revisit some of the cold cases with new officers, and as we go through evidence and notes, some of those new investigators are just shocked to know that the notes and comments from some of those investigations were taken on the old yellow legal pads. The reports we filed were done on old manual typewriters. We would have to make triplicate copies with carbon paper. There have been some amazing changes.
What are some of the biggest things that have changed in patrol over the years?
Patrol will always be about putting officers on the ground. That part of the job is still basically the same. What has changed is staffing and the areas we patrol. Twenty or more years ago, it wasn’t unusual for a shift to have only three deputies out running patrol. But now we’ve got a more appropriate number of deputies out on the road. One other thing we’ve seen change is that some of the bigger communities up north like Ovilla, Red Oak, Midlothian and Waxahachie have incorporated more areas, and some of those areas might have been some of our higher crime rate areas. But it all works out, because if one of those communities can’t get to a call because of a high call volume, we’ll end up coming out to help.
What are some of the more frequent crimes you work, and do those crimes show a trend as population increases here in Ellis County?
Property crime always seems to be our highest reported crimes in this county. Burglary of motor vehicles, petty thefts rank right up there, but we also have our fair share of disturbance calls and domestic violence calls in this county.
So Sheriff Johnny Brown comes in next week and tells you you’re going to go talk to a group of kids at Waxahachie High School during career day. What would you try to impress on them if they were looking to make law enforcement a career?
I think I would tell them to never be afraid to try something you want to do. Law enforcement isn’t for everybody, but I think the biggest disservice you could do to yourself, not only as a young man or woman, but at any time in your life is to not have tried something that was in your heart. You’ll know soon enough if it’s something you want to be a part of or not. But get your education and know that to succeed, you will have to have the desire to want to help people.
I’ve investigated some crime scenes, and you can see some devastated people who’s lives have been flipped upside down. I’ve sat down and had a good cry with some of them or just listened when they needed to talk to someone. It just has to be in your heart.
You mentioned technology changing the face of how CID investigates crimes in the county. How have those changes, good or bad, impacted the department?
When you get up and put your uniform on and climb in that squad car every day, and you’re not liking what you’re doing, you need to go find a new profession. I had fun when I first started, and I’m still enjoying what I do today, but you have to be able to adapt to change. Law enforcement is changing every day, and if you can’t adapt and change in this business, it’s not for you.
So in my roll as a supervisor, I think one of the most important things I can do to help these younger deputies coming on board is to let them know change is coming, it’s never going to end, and you had better be able to adapt to those changes. When I was a kid coming up through the department, the older guys would tell me this and tell me that, and I would just sort of nod my head and laugh, but looking back now, they were 100 percent right.